AJ Smith-Shawver, Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Atlanta Braves rookie right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver is being compared to one Steve Avery.

With his first win as a starting pitcher, rookie right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver became the youngest pitcher to win a game for the Atlanta Braves since Steve Avery did it back in 1990.

This was only Smith-Shawver’s third big-league appearance, and his second start. He went 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs and six hits, striking out six batters and walking one. Getting plenty of run support from the menacing Braves bats, Atlanta took Game 1 of their home series vs. the Colorado Rockies, 8-3. Clearly, Smith-Shawver has earned a third start in the rotation now.

At only 20 years old, Smith-Shawver is just becoming aware of the star he is being compared to.

People tend to forget how brilliant of a pitcher Avery was for the Braves in the early-to-mid 90s.

Arm troubles later derailed Avery’s career, but he is still thought of fondly by Braves Country today.

AJ Smith-Shawver drawing comparisons to Atlanta Braves great Steve Avery

It sounds hard to believe, but Avery was every bit as good in the Braves’ rotation from 1991 to 1994 as were Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and newcomer Greg Maddux, who signed with the Braves in his free agency in 1993. He was at his best when the Braves needed him to be, absolutely flourishing on the mound in 1991 during the Worst to First run and in 1993, his lone All-Star year.

The other part of Avery was he kept the clubhouse loose. I’ve seen clips of him celebrating the Braves’ unforgettable 1991 postseason success, telling people like Mark Wohlers hi from the other room because he was talking to Jeff Hullinger during the post-game festivities. It is a shame Avery never got to be as dominant for as long as his three former hall-of-fame teammates were.

Overall, the sample size is way too small for us to really think Smith-Shawver is the next Avery or anyone else of that caliber in Braves franchise lore. However, the early returns have been promising. Atlanta has not solidified the back-end of its rotation just yet with Max Fried and Kyle Wright spending the bulk of the year on IL. The good news is Smith-Shawver is pitching very well.

Ultimately, Atlanta should be just fine come October, so long as Bryce Elder, Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider remain healthy. Unfortunately, Elder is a bit green as a big-league starter, Morton isn’t getting any younger and Strider is working through the roughest patch of his career up to this point. It is all about the next man up in the Atlanta rotation. Smith-Shawver has answered the call.

Look for Smith-Shawver to face tougher competition in his next start vs. the Philadelphia Phillies.

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